A crisp is a pie without the fuss of a crust.
This humble cousin of upper-crust pies and tarts melds tree-ripened fruit and a few pantry staples into a sweet-tart old-fashioned dessert that's hard to resist.
The British call it a crumble. Americans call it a crisp. We call it downright delicious.
All those hot fruit juices bubble up into the buttery, sugary topping as it bakes to create sophisticated flavors that are mouth-watering and good.
Crisps are so easy to assemble. Mix fruit, sugar, lemon juice and tapioca and pour into a deep baking dish.
Sprinkle on a crumbly topping to create a one-of-a-kind dessert. Change up the fruit, using whatever is on hand. Mix apricot and pineapple or pineapple juice to lighten up an otherwise heavy filling. A mix of fresh cherries and canned cherry pie filling produces excellent results. Firm pears are an unexpected surprise. Add a few tablespoons of apricot jam to deepen their flavor.
Use whatever thickener you have on hand. Flour will do in a pinch. Even better is arrowroot, cornstarch or potato starch. Quick-cook tapioca, though, is my standby. It produces a clear filling that lets the fruit flavors shout and the brightly colored fillings shine. Swap brown sugar for white sugar or use a mix of both in the topping or the filling. Sprinkle in a little cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves into the topping. A teaspoon of each are all you'll need. Add a dash of spice to the filling. Or don't. This rustic dessert takes kindly to improvisation and is kind to the hostess because it comes together effortlessly. And if at first bite it's a little too tart, make room for ice cream. A tart crisp and vanilla ice cream are heaven in a bite.
Change up the topping: Try oatmeal or ground nuts; just butter, sugar and flour work great; and finely chopped nuts in a butter-flour-sugar topping are wonderful because they toast during baking and provide flavor and texture.
Pop it in the oven for a bit. When those delicious fruit juices bubble up over the filling, you know it's done. There's no guesswork here, like with a pie filling under a crust.
Resist the urge to eat it hot out of the oven - the juices need to thicken and set. And if you're lucky enough to have leftovers, you'll be rewarded with flavors that are even better the second day.
cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cups rolled oats
6 tablespoons ( stick) salted butter, softened
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and mix. Add butter and mix by hand until butter is incorporated. Spread over fruit. Bake until top is golden, 40 to 45 minutes.
For the filling, Lauren combines 3 cups blueberries, 2 tablespoons sugar and the juice of 1 lemon as the base for this crisp. She bakes it in a 9-inch square baking dish. She also doesn't use a thickener.
Change up the topping by reducing sugar and oatmeal by half and flour to cup. Add cup toasted wheat germ.
This recipe is from "The Hamptons: Food, Family and History," by Ricky Lauren (Wiley, $40).